12 Things Not To Buy In 2016

Category: Shopping

This time of the year is a good time to set goals for next year. A perennial favorite is, “I will not buy everything I want.” But even better might be “I will not want everything I see.” Some highly-touted products are outright scams, while others have alternatives that are much less expensive. Some are available for free! Read on to see my list of things NOT to buy in 2016...

Don't Buy These Products!

You don’t have to fall for marketers’ temptations, but you don’t always have to deny yourself the benefits they tout, either. The functionality of some products may be included in others that you already own, or available free of charge, or at least a lot cheaper than “as seen on TV.”

Some other products may just be unnecessary, and the worst are complete scams that don’t deliver any benefit. Let's go through my list of stuff on which you shouldn't spend your hard-earned money:

WINDOWS 10 -- I'm not dissing the latest and greatest from the folks in Redmond, mind you. It's just that if you have Windows 7 or 8.1, the upgrade to Windows 10 is free until July 28, 2016. If you’re still using XP or Vista, you’re better off buying a modern PC when you replace that obsolete operating system; all new Windows PCs come with Windows 10.

ANTIVIRUS -- Along those lines, are you still paying for internet security software? There's nothing wrong with the Norton or McAfee antivirus that came with your computer, except for the price tag. My article on Free Anti-Virus Programs will clue you in on several alternatives that provide excellent protection.

Don't Buy This Stuff in 2016

DIGITAL CAMERAS -- Clunky dedicated digital cameras are dispensable for the average consumer. The mobile phones of days gone by had wimpy 1.3 megapixel (MP) lenses, but the high-resolution cameras and photography software built into today’s smartphones and tablets are more than sufficient for non-professional uses. The latest iPhones have 8MP cameras, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 both have 16 MP. On the high end, there's the Nokia Lumia 950 (20MP) and the 1020 (41MP) smartphones.

One exception, especially if you are an avid photgrapher, might be a compact digital camera. See my article Are Digital Cameras Extinct? for the scoop on those.

PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING YOU FIND ON A CROWDFUNDING SITE such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. A lot people people mistakenly think they’re buying a product when they contribute to crowdfunding projects. In fact, you’re actually investing in a company, with the usual risk of losing your investment if the company fails. A lot of crowdfunding projects fail to ever deliver a product, and many more experience months-long delays, quality disasters, and other problems. One perfect example is the $500 Coolest Cooler that was hyped on Kickstarter. I covered this boondoggle in The Biggest Tech Flops of 2015.

BEATS BY DR. DRE or anything bearing Dre’s name. After all, he’s the guy who famously said, “If you ain’t in it for the money get out (of) the game.” Beats Solo HD headphones sell for $199 (the top model costs $450). But they cost just $20 to manufacture. About 30% of their total weight is inert metal weights inserted just to add “heft.”

TAXI RIDES, if you live in a major city. Uber and Lyft are considerably cheaper, unless you get stung by “surge pricing” because you didn’t pay attention to the notice on your smartphone screen. Car-sharing services, like Car2Go and ZipCar, let you rent a car right off the street for short trips, and you can drop it off just about anywhere.

BRAND-NAME PRINTER INK -- Brand-name printer ink cartridges can be a huge rip-off. A single black cartridge, rated for less than 1,000 pages, can cost $60 at an office supply store! Remanufactured ink cartridges cost less than $10 or $20 each from independent suppliers. You may have to deal with false “out of genuine ink” warnings from your printer, but you can click them away while counting your savings. And contrary to rumors perpetuated by printer manufacturers, using alternative ink cartridges does not void your printer’s warranty. See The Truth About Discount Ink Cartridges.

CABLE TV -- Consumers are “cutting the cable” in ever increasing numbers - between 280,000 and 360,000 unsubscribed in the third quarter of 2015, up from 189,000 the year before. Why pay well over $100/month for hundreds of channels, most of which you never watch? Netflix, with a huge library of movies and TV episodes, plus original programming, costs $9 a month. Amazon Prime subscribers get Amazon Video as well as free two-day shipping. Hulu offers day-old episodes of popular programs from ABC, the CW, Fox Network, and NBC. See my Cord Cutter's Cost Comparison Calculator article.

ANYTHING THAT REMOTELY RESEMBLES A TINFOIL HAT, whether it goes on your head or your wallet. In 2014, I debunked the totally useless $15 “Signal Vault,” a credit card sized envelope that claimed to prevent hackers from reading your card over distances up to 25 feet. Now we have “Shield: the world’s first signal-proof headwear.” Yes, it’s a stylish tinfoil hat. Did I also mention it’s on Kickstarter?

YOUR CREDIT REPORT -- You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the major reporting service. You really don’t need to review your credit report more than three times a year. See HOWTO: Get Your Free Credit Report Online.

Also, CREDIT MONITORING AND/OR IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION programs offer peace of mind, but that may already be yours for free. Most banks offer limitations of liability for unauthorized card charges. Many offer free transaction alerts via email and SMS messages. And credit reporting agencies will “freeze” your credit history so no one can open a new line of credit unbeknown to you. See 10 TIPS: Identity Theft Protection.

A DEDICATED GPS NAVIGATION DEVICE -- Smartphone apps such as Waze for Android and GPS Navigation for iOS provide voice-guided, turn by turn directions to any destination. Plus, they can network with other users to create real-time traffic jam and speed trap information.

Do you have something to add to my "Do Not Buy" list? Post your comment below...

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Most recent comments on "12 Things Not To Buy In 2016"

(See all 36 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

I'm a Senior. Can't afford satellite cable, etc. Was paying $35/month for "basic" on Direct TV. Got basic stations and a couple more. Then I bought a Flatwave Amped indoor antenna. It's great! Better picture than satellite! Not much more choice of stations, but get the basics. So great if you don't need hundreds of nothing stations. And after about two months, it HAS PAID FOR ITSELF, and is now FREE.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

@Bob - Can you DELETE 3 or 4 of Anthony's duplicate posts? He evidently did not read the Instructions and kept hitting the "Submit" button.

"All comments are previewed, and may be edited before posting."

Great article and some good Replies.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

I disagree with not purchasing a dedicated GPS because of the data you would be using with navigation on a cellphone.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

Please remember that not everyone owns, or intends to own, a cellular telephone. So there will still be a place for genuine digital cameras for a lot of people, for a long time to come.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Perhaps true, but as of September 2013, the Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans owned a cell phone. That number is surely higher by now.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

Regarding using your phone's GPS. I use an app called Sygic which works very well without a cellular or internet connection as you download the maps that you require to your phone.

Earlier this year on a trip to southern California I downloaded B.C., WA, OR and CA. The maps have many points of interest and other info. And the app did a fine job of navigating. It was pretty much the same as using my dedicated Garmin NUVI but less complicated in terms of updating maps regularly.

I believe you can download the app and maps for continued use but they cannot be used to navigate unless you've paid for them after the trial period (reasonable prices based on how much of the world you need).

Posted by:

Lee Keller
24 Dec 2015

Bob, I agree with you 100% that paid subscriptions to antivirus packages are simply not necessary for the average home user any more. There are many different, very good and free, A/V packages available today to prevent incurring needless annual expense. There is, of course, one answer that is even better. Ditch Microsoft Windows (any version) and become a Linux Mint user. Its free, efficient, has all tools available that most basic users will ever want or need, and is virtually security proof. I used and professionally supported Microsoft products for over twenty-five years. I recently switched to Linux for good. I simply use the computer and the tools that are put there for me. I don't spend several hours per week running maintenance on my systems any more. Using my computer has become fun again, something that I thought was a thing of the past.I recommend Linux Mint wholeheartedly. Take care and I want you to know that we all appreciate all that you do for all of us. Thanks!

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

You could add "radar detector" to the list of items to not buy. Most police have switched to instant-on radar guns that give little or no warning to motorists, and in the last year or two, many new cars have been equipped with radar devices which trigger frequent false alarms in nearby radar detectors. So nowadays, the false alarms outnumber the valid radar warnings by ten to one. That's just not worth it!

Posted by:

Jim Cauthen
24 Dec 2015

WOW Bob! You really struck a nerve with lots of comments.
Here's another. I used to pay too much for cable TV. After becoming disgusted with paying for re-runs 95% of the time and endless commercials, I cut them off. Now I'm on a digital antenna. It's the same thing, re-runs and commercials, but it's free.
I'm going back to reading books. Happy New Year.

Posted by:

David Lagesse
24 Dec 2015

Dedicated GPS required...
If you go outside of your Cell Phone Network, such as in the mountains or desert, like I do when I drive to some of my backpacking trail heads, your Cell Phone based GPS will not work at all.
Even out in the boondocks where you lose signal, the Cell Phone GPS is out of service too, this may not be a problem IF your turns, or destination occurs or takes you back into the Network.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

I add Smartphones to the list. I know, it's almost sacrilege to say that these days, but I've been using a Tracfone for a few years, and it's great. No monthly fees, service is very good and, if I'd happen to lose it, my whole life isn't in an overpriced phone.

Posted by:

Skip Nelson
24 Dec 2015

a couple of years ago you were down on Microsoft systems and promoting Linux. Why the change of heart?

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

@Daniel Weiner - You have a great sense of humor and I loved your comments!

Bob, thank you for all that you do for your readers. I know, when I read your articles, that I can do what you recommend or suggest. I still have my paid A/V program, since, it is good until Aug. 2016. I got a great deal on my subscription for 3 computers, for 3 years, which made it about $10 per year. I doubt, I will get that deal, again.

As for getting rid of DirecTV, I honestly, don't think I can. I simply enjoy the off channels that I watch all of the time. Even Cable, in my area, doesn't have the off channels that I like. Netflix would not do it, for me. I do have VUDU, which I can download the movies that I want, for my collection. I buy the older movies and usually get them for $5.88 or $7.88 each. Or I will download some of my DVD movies, so, I am not using the DVDs to much or if, one of my DVD Players goes out, I can still see the movies.

I have been using off manufacturer ink cartridges, for years! Why should I spend all that money, just for a name? Makes no sense, to me.

I simply use the GPS, on my Smartphone, when I need directions. Usually, all I have to do is look at the map, I visualize it and I am good to go. I do have a gift of being able to see a map, visualize all of the streets, the way to go and then, I do it. There are lots of people, who can't even read a map, yet alone, know how to use it, to go to an address. When, my daughter goes on a trip, she always wants me to print out the way to go. I am more than willing to this for her or anybody.

Posted by:

Jay R
25 Dec 2015

Shame on you, Denial Wiener. There are no links in your comment. How am I supposed to get my headgear? Oh, sure, I COULD Google it, but it would be so much easier just to click on the link and have eternal protection and security delivered right to my door. Don't be standing in my way when the UPS man is bringing the package.Even tho there is no link, I will not let it spoil my holiday spirit- Merry Christmas! Oh. I almost forgot. Do they make a thermal model with earmuffs for bipolars?

Posted by:

25 Dec 2015

About Anti-virus - your ISP may also offer customers a free Anti-Virus program: my ISP provides F-Secure SAFE free of charge to its customers :-)

About dedicated GPS equipment, the only trouble with using an app on your smartphone is that it will use up your data allowance :-(

About digital cameras: I have a Samsung S4, which has a 13 mega pixel camera - but I still prefer using my digital camera for any photos I want to upload to my PC and keep or print. This is because (a) I find it quicker just to take the flash drive out of the camera and push it into the card slot in my PC, which instantly pops up as a removable drive than to try to connect my phone as a removable drive to access the content :-/ And (b) the dedicated camera has a lot more settings that are so easy to adjust ;-)

Posted by:

Charles Eldredge
25 Dec 2015

I dropped cable tv years ago when the installer that came to expand my service was a total jerk. Then a couple years later I dropped my home phone and internet. I bought a digital hdtv indoor antenna for $10.89 @best buy and 25ft of cable(not cheap) to put the antenna in a southeast facing window...tons of channels and the best picture quality I've ever had....and its free! For awhile I had a mobile broadband service for internet and had my pc wired to my tv with an hdmi cable along with a wireless keyboard....able to switch between tv and pc at the touch of a button. But I dropped the separate mobile broadband that broadcast wifi thru out the house and opted for unlimited internet on my mobile phone with t-mobile. It includes 5 GB if tethering data of if I need to actually use the pc...which I rarely do. And I have a screen beam mini 2($50 @bestbuy) that projects whatever is playing on my mobile phone onto my tv...so I don't even use my tethering data for streaming. Another option is a simple usb to hdmi cable for $8 to get my mobile screen on my tv...but my tv didn't have the technology need built in...tho' most TV's do. And now that t-mobile has free streaming of music and video I'm barely using any of my unlimited data. I do pay for Netflix and I recently added Slingtv....Sling gives me what I really missed from cable...hgtv and food network and it comes with a lot of the most popular cable stations like ESPN, TNT, A&E, LIFETIME, DISNEY and many more for $20/mo. (Only $14/mo for a year if you are a t-mobile customer) So I'm currently at $28/mo for tv and internet. (Actually $22 for the year with the slingtv/t-mobile discount) Not bad.

Posted by:

Leo Beilin
25 Dec 2015

your phone's GPS only works where you can get a cell signal. Your dedicated GPS gets its signal from a satellite.
USA is a big country and when I've been driving through the desert there are times when I have NO cell signal and a GPS device has been useful

Posted by:

26 Dec 2015

Wow! So many echo this families view of the outstanding Streaming of today. Still use UVERSE for Internet and Phone. Although it is not the same as land line for something that will still be working when cell phones don't we are still looking to open an actual land line port.
Wonderful article and blogs as always.

Posted by:

Ken Splane
28 Dec 2015

As far as dropping Direct TV and cable, we did several years ago and bought a Roku device. One price and that's it, no monthly fee. We subscribed to Netflix through it, that's the only monthly fee we pay for entertainment. Roku has tons of free programming, also you can subscribed to Hulu+ and other subscription based services if desired, such as Google Play. You still need broadband of some type. We kept our DSL.

Posted by:

30 Dec 2015

You didn't mention Kodi from kodi.tv. It is free to download and use. Great program with live streams even from UK BBC and ITV and many others. All you need is a good Internet supplier.

Posted by:

05 Jan 2016

I disagree that you need cellphone service for GPS to function on a smartphone. I don't believe this is true for all phones, or at least not for some Windows phones. Several of the Nokia phones have GPS hardware inside the phone according to specifications. Without cell service, the GPS still works, though you would not have live traffic updates. I had a Nokia Windows phone and GPS would work with cellular data turned off. I used HERE which is a great app.

Summary: check your specs and verify before buying a GPS unit, which is still handy to have in some cases.

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